Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur: The human rights group in Ilocos region is apprehensive that more abuses will be experienced with the military operations in Northern and Central Luzon declared by the Philippine Army in pursuit of the government’s all out war against members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
In a media statement, Ilocos Human Rights Advocates (IHRA) deputy secretary general Mary Ann Gabayan said “with the government’s all-out war policy, the unit’s operating troops in Ilocos will no doubt release their pent-up itch to terrorize peasant communities and harass political activists
The Army’s 7th Infantry Division (ID) reportedly took over Ilocos region from the 5th ID in 2010. Its 81st Infantry Battalion has jurisdiction over the Ilocos provinces and some parts of Abra.
The group said that just a few months after the 81st IB’s deployment in 2012, its troops were immediately involved in alleged atrocities against farmers. Zoilo Baladad, IHRA Secretary General said that on October 29, 2012 soldiers from 81st IB figured in an operation at Barangay Cabuusan, Currimao in Ilocos Norte where five farmers were fired at killing Carlo Magbulos and critically wounding Ronald Sadaba.
Baladad also criticized the 81st IB’s occupation of eight villages in Santa Lucia town and five in Salcedo even during the AFP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration and despite the protest of the residents. She added that in 2016, IHRA recorded 101 cases of human rights violations in Ilocos Sur with 17,505 victims, most of which were perpetrated by the 81st IB.
“With this kind of record, all-out war will only embolden members of the 81st IB to violate human rights and international humanitarian laws, and civilians will bear the brunt of this militarist policy,” said Baladad.
Military combat operations are currently taking place in Salcedo, Santa Lucia, Sigay, Del Pilar and Quirino towns.